The Study Dude – Study Tips from a Semi-Anonymous Friend

There is nothing more that the Study Dude wants than to see you graduate with Honors, win a silver medallion, become CEO of a major international corporation, and write your memoirs.

Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.

Today’s study tips are based on a reading of Kevin Paul’s Study Smarter, Not Harder (2009).

Distance Learning Video/Audio Approach
The Study Dude hasn’t yet experienced a course at Athabasca that relies heavily on video or audio lectures, but that time is looming. Kevin Paul outlines a sound approach for video/audio lectures for distance learning that will make me?and my dear friends (none other than you!)?much more productive. The Study Dude wants you to graduate magna cum laude, so here are some of Paul’s invaluable tips toward that goal:

– Treat online video/audio lectures like live classes! Try to watch each lecture intensely only one time through so that you don’t waste precious time half-heartedly watching the same material over and over again.
– Make it the only task you focus on for its full duration! Give it your 100% focus.
– Take hearty notes while viewing the lecture (notes that mostly paraphrase, see last week’s article for more information). Leave spaces for the parts you miss to fill in later.
– Try to brainstorm a summary outline of everything you remember immediately after the lecture. Spend ten to thirty minutes immediately after the viewing to make an outline of everything you remember (in addition to all the notes you have been taking).
– Before the next video/audio lecture, spend ten minutes writing out a summary of everything you remember form the prior lecture.
– Whatever you do, don’t stop the lecture during the video/audio recording playback. This is important. Remember, you are treating this like a live lecture. You just want to watch the lecture one time through?nonstop?while taking copious notes so that you don’t waste the valuable time that you would otherwise spend reviewing the video multiple times. Plus, by treating it as a live lecture, your focus will be top notch for the time you do spend on the lecture.
– Okay, so there is a time when you can replay the video/audio. Once?and only once?you have treated the full lecture as a nonstop live class (while taking serious notes), view the video/audio lecture again in a supplementary manner while doing mundane events such as ironing, cooking, cleaning, and jogging. You likely wouldn’t be using that time for any serious study anyway, so why not replay your lectures over and over again during these types of activities in order to reinforce the main points.

(Paul, 2009)

After some reflection, The Study Dude would advise students to leave spaces in their notes at the parts of the ?live lecture? they miss, noting the time of the play-head in the audio or video, if possible. After the viewing, the student can return to those points in the video and fill in the final tidbits.

Relaxation Techniques
The Study Dude was once completely relaxed during exams, often finding the state of mind during exams the most relaxing time of all. However, that all changed once I went to grad school while working a full-time job and building a business Website for a colleague?all at the same time. I began to get serious anxiety attacks that inhibited my ability to focus for long bouts of time.

So, what is the Study Dude to do during exam times going forward? I read book after book on strategies for dealing with anxiety. Kevin Paul’s approach to relaxing during exam time particularly appeals to me. Here are some of the more salient points for you to consider in the quest to overcome exam jitters:

– Ongoing positive thoughts about yourself are important to have. Surround yourself with positive affirmations. Write out a list of positive statements about yourself, such as ?I can learn anything? and repeat them to yourself often.
– Music can be stimulating. Listen to it for five to ten minutes as your study prep and then shut it off for the rest of the day.
– Visualization techniques can be helpful for relaxation if you create mental imagery of a very tranquil place that you can virtually visit anytime. A sanctuary with a research center, a transportation center (where you can instantly travel anywhere imaginable in an instant), and a living chamber?with all three rooms in the same building, at your disposal– are outlined in the book as one recommended escape.
– Muscle relaxation by tensing and relaxing all the various parts of the body, one by one, is an excellent means for removing stress.
– Meditation through simply inhaling, holding, and exhaling the breath is a well-documented area of research called ?mindfulness? that alleviates stress and anxiety. Meditation can also help improve your overall study performance.
(Paul, 2009)

– For meditation techniques, the Study Dude recommends you read a book by Swami Saradananda called Power of Breath: The Art of Breathing Well for Harmony, Happiness, and Health. It is by far the best book available on breathing techniques. Pay special attention to the single nostril breathing technique outlined in the book. Since I’ve learned it, nearly every day for ten to thirty minutes (sometimes longer), I meditate using this technique.
– For visualization strategies, the Study Dude recommends visualizing what heaven might be like (if there was such a thing as heaven for any nonbelievers). Fill it with pure light; unconditional love; out-of-this-world colors, sounds, and scents. Find beautiful spiritual imagery to burn into your memory and place into your heavenly escape; I’d recommend looking at child prodigy Akiane’s artwork. Ensure that in this escape world, the best possible outcome imaginable (however wild and fabricated) is always your outcome?future, present, and past.

Study Output Strategies
Study output strategies are the tools we use after we have taken in the information in order to further process it to memory. There are a ton of study output strategies that are available, and the more variety you use, the more different types of intelligences (such as musical or linguistic) and learning styles (such as auditory, visual, or kinesthetic) you activate (Paul, 2009).

The Study Dude’s favorite technique for studying (besides using cue cards) is, by far, incorporating mnemonics. I read somewhere that the wilder the memory device imagery, the more able your recall will be. I have a backlog of all kinds of highly unusual?but always positive?mental imagery that aided in memorizing key points for acing exams.

But, there are many additional output strategies available.

I want you to succeed. Plain and simple! So, here is a list of study output strategies that will surely give you an added edge on your next exam:

– Make lots of reading notes by writing keywords in the margins of your book, highlighting main ideas, thinking about the material, and writing summaries of what you’ve read.
– Write and rewrite notes (most especially main points) from lectures and readings.
– Turn the lesson into a speech that you make, a lecture that you teach to someone, a rhyme?or superimpose and sing the study notes to a melody such as the ?Happy Birthday? song or the Canadian national anthem.
– Use memory devices such as chunking related items together, linking ideas with thoughts that evoke strong (positive) emotions, finding something weird to recall about the idea, making acronyms or extending acronyms into words (thereby composing an easy to remember sentence to remember things?like the first letter of each of the planets), and repeating key ideas over and over again.
– Create flash cards that you make on your own (as you learn from them better when you make them yourself). Practice them during mundane activities like while waiting in line, sitting on the bus, or any time that you get a chance to review them. Recording your memory devices (called mnemonics) on cue cards is another great strategy.
– Make mind maps that you either draw yourself or create in free software such as FreeMind. Mind maps use images and branches, where the main idea or main topic is in the center and branches reach out from it in all directions, capturing various subtopics and further subtopics.
(Paul, 2009)

Kevin Paul (2009) recommends writing out notes and using cue cards as the primary two study output tools of those listed above that you should emphasize in your arsenal.

Later on in the Study Dude series, we will explore mnemonic (memory) devices from a number of different author perspectives. Also later in the series, we will explore mind maps from the perspective of the mind map creator himself.

So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.

Paul, Kevin. (2009). Study smarter, not harder. Vancouver, BC: Self-Counsel Press.

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